OSHA Proposes $60,000 in Fines Against Mass. Contractor for Cave-In Hazard

OSHA proposed $60,000 in fines against G. Lopes Construction Inc. for allegedly failing to provide cave-in protection for employees working in a 6-foot, 3-inch-deep excavation located in Taunton, Mass.

"These citations highlight one of the most dangerous hazards in construction work," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA's area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts. "An unguarded excavation can collapse in seconds, crushing and burying workers beneath soil and debris before they have a chance to react or escape."

OSHA inspectors driving by the site on Oct. 28, 2008, stopped and opened the inspection after they observed company workers installing a drain line in the excavation. They found the excavation's sidewalls were insufficiently shored to prevent their collapse and lack of a ladder or other safe means of exit.

As a result, OSHA issued the company one willful citation, with a proposed $56,000 fine, for the lack of cave-in protection and one serious citation, with a $4,000 proposed fine, for the absence of a ladder. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health, while a serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.

"As the construction season gets underway, I'm calling upon employers in southeastern Massachusetts to review their excavation safety procedures to ensure that no worker enters an excavation unless and until it is properly protected against collapse," said Gordon. "Adhering to the rules can prevent serious accidents and save lives."

OSHA standards mandate that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. Detailed information on excavation safety is available on OSHA's Web site at www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/index.html.

G. Lopes Construction has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with the OSHA area director or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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